Category: Child Minding

I am very fortunate in that I live in south west England where we have wonderful beaches.

When I was working as a child minder I didn’t take the children to the beach in the height of summer because they were often full of tourists and it sometimes became very hot.

Instead I would go out of season with them when I didn’t have to pay a small fortune to park the car in an over crowed car park and didn’t have to worry about the children mingling in with the crowds or getting burnt by the sun.

We just put on our wellington boots, wrapped up in warm clothes and enjoyed walking through the shallow waves.

While rock pooling, we often came across crabs, shrimps and small fish which we would study together and always put them back afterwards. The children also loved to collect shells and shiny pebbles as we walked along the sand, often we would look things up in reference books when we arrived home, enabling the children to learn more about what we had seen and brought back.

Of course the beach out of season is also great for dog walking

, surfing, kite flying and having a brisk walk to blow away the cobwebs.

I would be interested to hear how others use the beach out of season.

I would like to thank Julie Tallin and Ann Marie Jane Morris for supplying the photos in this post.

Until next time.



Melanie has suggested this weeks topic.

One of my favourite messy play activities is what I call gloop (cornflour and water experiment) as this also covers science in the early years. Basically you mix lots of cornflour with water in a large vessel. I used to mix it in my grill pan as this allowed easy access for the children to get their hands in when I placed it on my kitchen table, if you wish to add colour, a good tip is to put the food colouring into the water before stirring into the cornflour, this way the colour won’t stain the children’s hands.

At first the mixture looks like a solid but as if by magic when force is applied it becomes a liquid.

I once made a batch and presented it to the children that I was child minding. One male child had a very short attention span, but when I put the gloop in front of him he sat contented for a good 45 minutes fascinated by what he was seeing. He was attempting to write his name using the end of a wooden spoon he managed to start  but as it turned from a solid to a liquid it would fade away.

Other forms of messy play  are to give the children food to experiment with, for example spaghetti or jelly I have also heard of giving them a tray full of shaving cream.

Messy play is as it says on the tin- messy, but that’s part of the fun.

Slime is now becoming  a popular thing to make I recently discovered this recipe on television:-

Mix together in a bowl a cup of P.V.A. glue and a cup of baking soda, add a few drops of food colouring, if desired. For a super fluffy slime add a good squirt of shaving foam and mix well, add some contact lens fluid a teaspoon at a time, keep adding more fluid and keep mixing until it starts to come away from the sides of the bowl. Tip in out and have fun, If it is really sticky try adding more contact lens solution until it is pliable. Store your slime in an airtight container and it should last for a good week, possibly two.

The benefits of messy play are endless, while having fun in a relaxed atmosphere children learn new vocabulary such as slimy,  sticky, moist, dripping while at the same time discover sensory lessons about touch and texture. Children can also learn how to manipulate tools if they are supplied. It is a great opportunity to make some new friends and because messy play is an inclusive activity children with special needs should be able to join in with the fun.

Recently many church groups have learned about the positives of messy play and participate  by holding what they refer to as messy church sessions, these can usually be attended for a minimal fee.

I once took a few children along to a messy play session when I was a child minder, one activity on offer was for the children to flick watery paint onto a large piece of paper that was hung on an outside fence, one little girl in my care didn’t like the idea of getting messy but after standing back and witnessing the other children enjoying what they were doing, she decided to be brave and join in, unfortunately ‘a speck of paint landed in her hair which didn’t impress, but when I told her that I could easily brush it out when it had dried she went on to produce a masterpiece that she proudly took home to show her family.

My advice would be to dress children in older clothes when taking them to a messy play day, although aprons are usually provided and mess comes out in the wash, children mostly enjoy any excuse to get messy, so roll with it and let them discover this wonderful experience of learning while having a fantastic time!


I would like to thank messydoodledoo Ltd for allowing me to use their photographs in this post.

As always questions/comments are welcome.



Long before they can learn to write children need to master the skill of holding a pen or pencil.This usually begins by doing a few scribbles with a chubby crayon.

This primitive form of writing is known as mark making, just having fun with any form of arts and crafts

can help with hand to eye co-ordination, another skill that needs to be achieved before children can start writing.

I used to give my children and the ones that I was child minding junk mail to draw on, often I noticed that they would mark make in the space asking for a name and address, all good practice for later years.


Scribbles quickly become more sophisticated  and so drawings of familiar things such as a family member soon develop.


Once a child starts school they learn to write significant letters  enabling to attempt to write their name,

followed by more and more words which become sentences as confidence builds.


Praise children when they attempt to write but also be aware that if they are not supervised when given mark making equipment they may use them on walls or furniture, most of which can easily be removed, my motto was to keep art materials out of my living room and encouraged the children to sit up to the table for such activities.


When I was at junior school I won a hand writing competition, sadly now as an adult my writing is not so neat meaning that I tend to use a computer for writing or write in capitals so it can be read.

Please share any experiences of your children’s early attempts at writing and drawing.

I would like to thank Jade Marie Ryan, Kirsty Butland and Sarah Knight for allowing me to use their photos of their children’s work in this post.

As always questions/comments are welcome.






Recently I attended a Christmas craft evening where I discovered the following crafts, which I feel children would manage with a little help from an adult. I feel sure that many parents and child minders will enjoy and benefit from this.

All the items needed can be purchased reasonably from arts and crafts suppliers and even some discount stores.

I used coloured lolly pop sticks, glue or glue dots, googly eyes, buttons and glitter, plus some ribbon for making hanging loops. Children  could follow these designs or modify to make their own creations, which can be hung on the Christmas tree or even given as gifts.

Another idea that I discovered this week and is so ingenious that I had to share was on a television show, it demonstrated how to make bespoke penguin wrapping paper  by simply printing with half a potato using black and white paint onto plain brown wrapping paper, then adding feet and beaks with orange paint and commercial googly eyes.

When I was working as a registered child minder  I taught the children how to do tea bag folding, which sounds a bit odd,  but can be really effective once mastered.

We made small stars to stick onto homemade cards and larger ones as decorations for the playroom walls. Using contrasting colours of paper look even more striking.

Marzipan fruits and Christmas biscuits were also favourites that we did together each year along with the Christmas treasure boxes  that we put our little makes into ( read more about this in my post on arts and crafts for children on a shoestring).

I would love to hear about other crafts  that adults enjoy sharing with children at Christmas, or at any time of year.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to everyone who reads my blog!

As always questions/comments are welcome.




Without meaning to sound like a slave driver, I believe that children should be encouraged to help in the household.

My youngest son loved to clean my kitchen sink, this started one day when he was bored and as I was pottering in the kitchen I pulled up a chair so he could reach the sink and put some water in for him, he began playing with some plastic toys and we discussed whether he thought they would sink or swim. Later when I emptied the water to clean the sink, he asked if he could do it for me. I squirted the cream cleaner around and showed him how to rub it in and rinse away when finished. Adam enjoyed this new activity so much that he asked if he could clean the sink nearly every day ( I swear I had the cleanest sink in the country!) It didn’t end there , as far as Adam was concerned as he then started to clean his bedroom, when I say clean, I mean that he removed everything except his bed and wardrobe and set to work, he even used an old toothbrush to clean his dragon ornaments. This has become a bit of a joke in our family as now that he is in this mid twenties, he has gotten through more vacuum cleaners than we can count.

My older children were asked to wash the dishes from around the age of 10,

they did this on a sort of rota basis; one would wash the breakfast things and the other 2 the lunch and teatime, they did this without complaining too much, so when they were a bit older we asked them to dust, polish and vacuum their bedrooms at the weekend, which weren’t done to the same standard as Adam did his.

I also think that younger children can be encouraged to do their ‘bit’ as they often like to help out and it gives them a sense of achieve when they are praised for it

.simple tasks such as sorting socks into pairs can help with colour matching, so it can be educational too.

I wouldn’t recommend that parents pay their children for doing household chores as this could result in them wanting to help for the wrong reasons, far better to give verbal praise in my experience.

I once overheard my step-son telling a friend that I had insisted he scrub the whole house after I reminded him that he hadn’t dusted his room, so don’t expect gratitude either.

As a child minder one of the older children loved to help me by putting the little ones shoes on for them and helped with doing up coats. This was something that I never asked her to do, the children instigated it for themselves.

I’m not suggesting that we go back to Victorian times and send children up chimneys, but getting them to help with simple household chores must be a good idea surly?

I would like to thank Sarah Knight for allowing me to use some of these photos and to Megan for being so photogenic!

I would love to hear what other parents think about this subject.

As always questions/comments are welcome.



Thanks to Shannon from who got in touch with this brilliant blog, after reading it myself I knew I had to have her as a guest blogger!

Knowing the letters in your name, and the order they go in, is an important sign of nursery readiness. But it’s not as easy as you might think! Children need repeated practice, and at this age, their restless little bodies demand that the practice be as hands-on as possible!

Here’s an activity that’s all hands-on…hands-on the fridge, that is! It’s a refrigerator name game!

What You Need:
Ink jet magnet sheets (or, use cardstock and adhesive magnet strips)

What You Do:
1. On your computer, type out your child’s name in a bright color and super large font. Be sure to bold the letters and leave lots of space between each letter in the name, as you will be cutting each of the letters out later. On the same page, type your child’s name again exactly as you did the first time, so the name appears on the page twice.
2. Print the page onto ink jet magnetic sheets. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions so your page comes out perfectly.
3. Cut the names into two separate strips so you have two copies of your child’s name. Leave one strip completely intact. Cut the other strip apart into individual letters.
4. Put the name strip on the fridge at a height your preschooler can reach.  Tell her that this is what her name looks like.
5. Spell her name aloud and point to each letter as you name it. On a second reading, have her join you.
6. Put the individual letters on the fridge near the strip with her name on it.  Ask your child to name the first letter of her name and then find that letter in the cluster on the fridge.
7. When she finds it, help her to hold it near the matching letter on the full name strip, to check that they are the same. If it’s a pair, let her put it on top of it’s matching letter.
8. Repeat for the remaining letters in her name. Be sure to celebrate each step along the way, especially once she has spelled her name completely!

After your child gets good at her name puzzle, try creating additional word puzzles, such as “mum,” “dad,” or the names of siblings or pets. You can also play games with the word puzzles, for example, Name Game Simon Says. Here’s how: Put a variety of letters at her height, then say, “Simon Says put the letter B way up high,” “Simon Says put the letter E way down low,” or other letter-based directions.

Looking for another game? Try the Mix and Fix Race: Use a kitchen timer to challenge your child to complete the name puzzle quickly…can she mix the letters up and fix them in less than two minutes?

Or go for another version, called Tall Letters/Short Letters: Ask her to spell the letters in her name aloud. When they are tall letters, she stands up; when they are short letters, she squats down.

Regular readers, will know how I love to get children out and about whenever possible.One outing, that comes to mind, was when I took my youngest son. then aged 12, a child minded child, age 8 and went, with another child minder and her son, 12 on an afternoon walk to Heddon’s mouth, via the Hunters Inn

The Hunters Inn, as the name suggests, is a hotel.

We drove there, ( note, that I had written permission from the child minding child’s parents, to take her out in my car) leaving my car in the car park, we then walked pasted the hotel, where there were several peacocks wandering around the grounds.

. The path which is in a deep valley follows a river to the sea.

We walked together along the path, where I spotted and pointed out a heron looking for fish. At one point we had to cross the river over a wooden bridge, where the children had fun playing pooh sticks, while I chatted to my friend. As we walked further we also saw a mountain goat, high above us, on the hill. To get onto the pebble beach, we had to cross the river once again, the older boys decided to use some stepping stones

and my son managed to get his feet wet, On witnessing this, the rest of us took an alternative route.

Next we found a sheltered spot to sit on the beach, while the children tried their hands at skimming stones into the sea

(always take great care of children near any water). I remembered my dad telling me, when I was a girl, that round, flat stones are the best for this, so I shared this information with them all.

Half an hour, or so, later, we headed back to the car park, taking pleasure from the scenery, as we walked.

When we arrived at the car, we had an ice cream, before driving home.

For the cost of an ice cream each and the petrol it took for our journey, we had a good, educational, fun afternoon out and as it meant my son had a good few hours away from his x-box, I would say it was a good result!

I would like to thank my dad. Ken Smith and my friend Tina Day for allowing me to use their photographs in this post.

As always questions/comments are welcome.




When I was a registered child minder  I heard about a drop-in for child minders, I went along and discovered that it wasn’t well attended, which I thought was a shame.

Later when I also became employed as a support child minder I took over the running of the drop-in, we were extremely lucky, in that we managed to acquire the playroom at the local children’s centre to hold this weekly event.This was fantastic as we were not charged for the use of the facility, plus the toys were already there and we had the use of  a kitchen for making drinks and preparing snacks.

As a support child minder I invited along the potential child minders that I was mentoring, one particular shy lady requested that I meet her outside of the centre, so that she didn’t have to walk in alone, I gladly did this and she became a regular, as did several others.

During the drop-in we gave one another support and chatted while we played with the children.

As I was also there as a support child minder I would give everyone the details of any upcoming training that I knew of.

I also started a vacancy list in the hope of matching parents looking for child care to minders with vacancies. Half way through the morning I made tea and coffee for the adults and juice for the children who also had a snack of fruit followed by a biscuit each.

In the beginning I had to take everything needed for this each week, but later we were allocated a cupboard meaning non perishables could be left there, the children’s centre supplied the milk and fruit so I charged a nominal fee of £1 per child minder and nothing for the children. At the end of the year I used any money accumulated towards a Christmas party, we all contributed with food and I bought a few gifts for party bags for the children, I even managed to persuade a male member of staff to dress up as Santa for us. At the end of the morning  we were expected to tidy everything away and leave the room as we found it.

During the school holidays many of us had extra older children who also came along, so because the toys at the children’s centre were really for younger children I took along some suitable activities, like wool to make a woolly doll.

Before having to give up child minding due to ill health we had a great variety of up to 10 child minders and their children attending this worth while group, which meant the child minders got some much needed adult conversation and the children learned to socialise with more children than they would at their child minders home.

I would suggest that all child minders attend a similar group, if there isn’t one in your area, why not start one yourself. If there is not a children’s centre playroom available, as long as suitable premises can be found perhaps the child minders could each take along a few toys, or hold it at each others homes, as we did for a while when the children’s centre was having some building work done.

I would love to hear any other child minders experiences of attending a similar group.

As always questions/comments are welcome.









Nowadays, with electronics, such as, games consoles, tablets and i pads it may seem old fashioned to think about playing traditional games, but they, too, can be fun and a lot cheaper on our pockets.

Eye- spy is one of the oldest, it can be adapted for younger children, I used to to play it using colours, rather than letters, for the tiny ones, e.g. I spy with my little eye, something red (the car ahead) I have even played eye spy on the web cam, using Skype, with my grandchildren, who live far away, my eldest granddaughter made us laugh, when she said, “Eye spy, with my little eye, something beginning with !”nana”

Hide and seek is another old favourite, I remember a child once lying on a bed, with his eyes closed, thinking that because he couldn’t see, no one could see him! Another time a little one hid in a laundry basket, but left her arm dangling outside.

Hopscotch is another traditional favourite, that will also help your children to stay active

Dressing up will help feed your child’s imagination ( I have also written posts on child led play)



If your children are into electronic games, my earlier blog on being addicted to tablets, may be useful.

Of course, there are loads of party games for groups of children, like Ring a roses and the farmers in his den, the list is endless. The main thing is, which ever games children play,   enjoy and have fun doing so.

As always questions/ comments are welcome.



As an experienced child minder I often used to child mind for social services, which is now known as community child minding.

This initially meant attending a 2 day training course ( where I met another child minder who 20 years on is still one of my closest friends).

This training consisted of listening to talks from other professionals from a woman’s refuse, the child protection officer and a couple of social workers.

I gained some great tips for managing behaviour as well as heaps more relevant information.

A few weeks after completing the training two social workers visited me at home, this was to get to know me better and complete the necessary paperwork.


My first child which was sent via social services was in order to give her mother some respite ( the girl had an ongoing medical condition).

I enjoyed the aspect of taking care of a child so that the parents could get help, rather than while they were working ( not that I had an issue with this). When I did community child minding I had to invoice my fees to social services at the end of the month, they paid promptly but wouldn’t pay if a child didn’t attend due to illness or a holiday ( which are both things that I would charge for had I drawn up my own contract with parents) this may be different now.

I did community child minding for many years, having children for differnt reasons ranging from respite to once when the police arrested a woman who had a young child with her, I looked after the baby while she was being interviewed’


I would recommend any dedicated child minder to look into community child minding as it is extremely rewarding. Find out how to go about it from your local child minding association, ofsted or Pacey.

Read more of my child minding experiences by purchasing my e book also titled the next best thing to mummy.

As always questions/comments are welcome.




As a mother of 4 boys ( 3 of my own and a step-son) and that the majority of the children I  looked after while I was working as a registered child minder were boys, I have quite a lot of experience in keeping them amused. In my opinion, boys will be boys, so you may as well let them get on with it, to a certain extent, by this, I mean, don’t necessarily ban guns and other violent inspired toys. In my experience they will go into the garden, find a stick and that becomes a gun,

or they build one from lego!. instead encourage calmer play, if possible. I believe that all children should have access to toys intended for both sexes. My middle son used to love pushing a doll around in his toy buggy. While child minding I observed that the girls, who didn’t have brothers, liked the cars ( as they didn’t have them at home) and boys, without sisters, swayed towards more ‘girly’ toys. I did, once hear from another childminder, that one parent complained because his son was playing with a toy kitchen! I think she politely said that if he wasn’t happy, maybe he should think about placing his son elsewhere, as she had similar beliefs to me. All I can gather from this story is that the father thought by playing with a ‘girls’ toy, his son would become effeminate! I had a small boy who liked to dress up in a pink tu-tu, from my dressing-up box. I could see no harm in this. In fact, I think he only did it, as he had seen one of the girls enjoying it and he decided to get it first!  I did, however, persuade him to remove it, before going on the school run, as I thought the older boys, may make comments. This child was very mild mannered and like to play quietly by himself, until one day another boy brought 2 light sabers ( star wars) with him. The play became rough and I had to intervene. I recall once taking my youngest for a walk in his pram. My older 3 sons were playing in the garden, as my husband was home, they were play fighting teenage mutant ninja turtle ( all the rage at the time) On my walk I saw a friends 3 girls ( of similar ages to my boys)  the difference was they were playing barbie dolls. For a split second I thought to myself, why did I have boys, but , of course, I wouldn’t change them for the world and am very proud of the men they have grown into. I think all boys go through the stage of loving anything with wheels. I remember my eldest son, sitting looking out of the window for most of a morning. We lived on a housing estate that was still being developed and was watching the dump trucks and diggers going past. I even gave him refreshment by the window, so not to spoil his enjoyment! He had an enormous collection of cars, lorries, buses and tractors which he used to line up, as if they were in a traffic jam, but then he would crash them all together and pretend there had been an accident ( this was the boy in him, I believe) Playing with toy vehicles can be educational, especially the Thomas the tank engine trains, as not only are they different colours, but also have numbers on the side.

In summery, then, don’t stop boys displaying boyish behaviour be aware that some computer console games can encourage unwanted behaviour, in boys and girls.

Instead encourage calmer ways to play Why not get down and join in, you may even enjoy yourself!

As always, questions/ comments are very welcome. If reading my blogs has inspired to to consider child minding you may like to buy my e book.



This is a request from Julie Tallin, thanks Julie, for tips on how to divide your time and attention between several children.

In my experience, trying to juggle several children at once is easy, if managed correctly.

I used to try to include everyone together, so nobody feels left out.

I can recall my youngest son always wanting to be treated as a ‘big boy’ ( due to the fact that he had 3 older brothers).

One day he picked up a book, that one of his brothers has been reading and pretended he was reading it, fully engrossed. The only problem was, he was holding the book upside down, much to everyone’s amusement!

One another occasion, after a session of speech therapy.The therapist said to me “I would like Adam to practise these words at home.” He became very excited by this and said “Have I got homework, like my brothers?”

So from then on,when my older children were sat around the table doing home work I would encourage Adam to sit there too and give him a note book and crayons and instruct him to draw a dog etc.

For children who are too young to join in, in this way, why not sit them in a high chair, close by, with a healthy snack or small toy to keep them entertained?.

My older boys used to have weekly spelling tests at school, which they would learn at home. One day on the school run in the car, I was testing them on words. Adam looked up and said “What about me?So I replied “Adam. spell dog.” He came back with, “DOG.” It was a fluke that surprised us all!

Whilst child minding I really had to juggle children , as most days I had 3 under 5 and more in the school holidays.

Again I tried to plan activities that everyone could enjoy. Even a baby will sit happily on your lap while you read a story or sing. At around 18 months they can play with dough or draw using chunky crayons if sat in a high chair near by.I used to encourage the older children to help with the little ones. I had one particular 8 year old girl who loved to help. When we were preparing to go out they would get their shoes and sit on my stairs, in a queue, waiting for her to put them on. This worked really well for us.Older children also like to push a buggy or a child in a swing,or will happily cuddle a younger child under supervision, of course.

While any child requiring a nap was asleep I would read the other children a story, or encourage other quiet activities.

One time the children were junk modelling and a young child happily stuck masking tape onto a box and then pulled it off again. He still took this home (after I explained it to his mum).


If you let all the children share your time, in this way, hopefully, it will avoid jealousy, when one child appears to be getting more attention. GOOD LUCK.

As always questions/ comments are welcome. I will answer questions as soon as I can.

Karen x

I was sent this book by ichild.

It is just the sort of activity book that I would have found really helpful when I was working as a registered child minder as many of the activities relate to the early years foundation stage (E.Y.F.S.) which are personal, social and emotional development, literacy, maths and understanding of the world.

There are attractive pages to colour, which would be suitable for young children as the pictures are not too intricate.

There are also- spot-the-difference, counting and dot-to-dot puzzles which aid hand to eye co-ordination, these would be suitable for pre- school age children, plus writing

and drawing activities. Meeting the E.Y.F.S. there are puzzles relating to different sizes

and some simple maths exercises.

On the last page are some tips for staying safe in the sun.


Disclosure: I was gifted this item but all opinions are my own.

As I have already mentioned this book would be an asset to early years practitioners and parents of young children . The activities in this book and many others can be downloaded from or can be purchased from Amazon for£2.99.

As always questions/comments are welcome.








I love to get out and about whenever possible and liked to do outdoor activities, with my child minded children, when the weather would allow.

One bright Autumn day I decided to take them on an outing to the woods, I had to drive us there, as it was approximately 8 miles from my home.

We parked in a picnic area nearby and walked together along the footpath to the wood. I gave each child a plastic carrier bag to put their treasures in, I had visions of them collecting conkers, acorns, pine cones, sycamore keys and maybe some leaves.

One particular little boy, Hayden, decided to fill his bag to the top with rather large stones and pebbles, he was thrilled with his finds.

After collecting our goodies, we paused for a while, to watch a wild rabbit, in the distance


We then gradually made our way back to the car. Hayden’s bag was heavy, as it was full of stones, so he decided to drag his bag along the floor, rather than carry it. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the car park, the friction of the bag rubbing against the rough path had worn a hole in the bottom and all the stones had gradually slipped out. I hadn’t noticed this happening, as I paying attention to the children, ensuring everyone was walking safely along the path.

I have written on road safety, in an earlier post). The children all passed me their bags to put into my car boot. All poor Hayden had was an empty bag complete with a hole! Luckily, he didn’t seem too upset, just a little bewildered and his sister kindly said she would share her treasures with him.

As always, questions/comments are welcome. I always answer questions to the best of my ability.


There are many advantages why a parent, mother or father should join a toddler group,( traditionally known as mother and toddler groups.) with their child. Firstly it is a fantastic opportunity to meet other parents in similar situations as yourself. A well run group will benefit your child as it will help to teach them how share, turn take and generally get along with other children all things that will aid them later in life at pre -school groups as well as at school.

I took my own children to such groups and also attended several when I was working as a registered child minder. During this time we all benefited because the children in my care got to socialise with more children. I could have some much needed adult conversation and from a professional point of view, I gained ideas for activities to carry out at home with the children and I also acquired more work. This was because parents could see how happy and relaxed the children in my care were ( at one time I was literally over flowing with enquiries for my child minding service that I was able to pass on the details of other local child minders).

Activities at groups vary but usually there is an opportunity to paint

and or do art and craft projects,


group singing time which includes singing to anyone who is celebrating a birthday

and a story session. Drinks and biscuits for both adults and children are provided.

Fees are usually minimal, starting at a few pounds to include a registration fee. Popular groups may well have a waiting list, so don’t delay in putting your child’s name down, often a group will allow you to go on a complimentary visit  before you commit.

Take my advice and join a toddler group, the benefits are endless.

Have fun with your children.

As always questions/comments are welcome







Harry started at Little Treasures quality child minding, when he was 2 years of age. I had previously cared for his older brother, Kelvin, until he left me to start school. Harry had initially been with another child minder, as I didn’t have a space for him, at the time ( there are very strict rules about the number of children, child minders are permitted to look after). Harry eventually took over his brothers place, when he left, so it all worked out in the end.

Harry’s mum, Paula, had previously spoken to me about Harry being a little slow to talk. All of my sons had needed help, in the form of speech therapy, to help them with communication, so this was all familiar to me.

As Harry grew older it became more evident that he was having trouble with this.

When Paula asked me what I felt about this, I said, what I thought was an obvious question,”He has had his hearing tested, hasn’t he?,”Well no,”she replied,”I couldn’t take him for the appointment, as something else came up!”

I was amazed to hear this, but try not to judge people, as we all lead busy lives.I suggested that she make another appointment, but she never took him to that one either.

I was working part time as a support child minder, at the children’s centre too and knew one of the speech therapists quite well, I mentioned to her, that I was concerned about one of the children in my care and she suggested that I bring him along to one of her drop-ins, where she could observe him.

I spoke to Paula about this option and explained that I would need written permission from her for this to go ahead, she was delighted at the prospect, as it meant she wouldn’t need to do any more!

Anyway, she gave me the written consent:

To whom it may concern, I,…… give my child minder, Karen Dennis, my permission, to seek action and/or advice in order to help my child,……signed…………….

I took Harry along to what was, in effect, a play session, with a speech therapist in attendance. She observed us both, from a distance, at first, and then when Harry became more relaxed, she came over and started to build a tower from building blocks with him.

He was now about 2 and a half, she chatted to him, but because he was shy, he wouldn’t even look at her, let alone talk to her!

A few weeks later, while at home, Harry pointed to my television, meaning he wanted me to switch it on, when I did a programme called Big cook, little cook, was on,

“Yeah,yeah, yeah, cook,cook, cook, cook,” he exclaimed excitedly.

Another time I took all the children on a visit to a farm, where we saw, cows, sheep, pigs and chickens.

I attended a training course some time later and I was still thinking that there must be something else I could do to help Harry’s situation. I spoke, in confidence to the special education needs co-originator ( Senco) about him and explained to her that I had written consent from his parent to seek help, she told me that she was going to be working close to my house soon and so would pop in for a coffee and take a look at Harry at the same time.

Anyway, she did just that, all the children were sitting at my kitchen table playing with some play dough, when she arrived, I discretely pointed out which was Harry. She sat next to him, as he was cutting out the shape of a pig.

“Is that a pig,Harry?” she asked.

“Yeah, yeah,yeah,Karn’s a oink, oink,” he replied.

I told her, that Karn was how he referred to me.

“Oh, is Karen a pig?” she queried. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” came his reply, as he bounced excitedly on his chair.  I very quickly explained that I had recently taken the children to see some pigs! she laughed and said that she hadn’t actually thought that the boy had really meant that I was a pig.

The Senco couldn’t see a particular problem with Harry, other than a common speech delay and therefore suggested some listening games that I could play with all the children and that he could also play at home. Eventually Paula took her son for a hearing test, which he passed, his talking then developed in leaps and bounds, he is now doing very well at school.

If you have concerns about your child’s hearing or communication consult your doctor or health visitor for advice.

As always comments/questions are welcome.



This weeks post goes back to when I was working as a registered child minder and took a group of minded children on a visit to the local garden centre.

We walked along a safe foot path

and on arrival  we looked around at the plants


and pet accessories they were selling, before visiting the cafe for refreshments



After our visit we were preparing for the walk home, when one child, Katie, looked a little worried.  “What’s the matter? I enquired. “I’m just checking that the police haven’t arrived yet,” she told me

, “I have stolen some diamonds!”

I asked her to show me these precious jewels, so she reached into her pocket and pulled out 3 shiny stones

which had been on display in one of the flower beds we had been looking at earlier.

“Oh sweetheart,” I told her, “These are not diamonds, they are shiny stones.”

” i took one for mummy, one for daddy and one for you,” she explained.

I don’t know if she was more relieved that she wasn’t going to prison, or disappointed that she wasn’t going to make us all rich.  It was good to know that she had included me in her get rich scheme though!

Read more of my child minding tales in other posts and in my e book also titled the next best thing to mummy, available to down load from Amazon.

As always comments/questions are welcome








When I was working as a registered child minder I had a few parents who came to see me to enquire about my child minding service, but were unsure or worried about using me instead of grand parents..

One such person was Heidi  who said that her mum Lydia was keen to look after her 6 month old son, Michael, but Heidi was concerned that doing this would restrict her mother. We chatted for a while and then came up with a plan, which she was going to put to her mother, I would look after Michael for 3 days a week and Lydia could have him for the other 2. Heidi went away feeling confident that this would work  and promised to let me know what her mum thought.  She rang me the following day to say that her mother agreed it was a good idea and because she was so pleased she wanted to pay my fees  for caring for Michael, as it meant she wasn’t going to be tied to a baby every day.

The arrangement worked extremely well, however, Heidi went on to have a second child and we continued with the same joint care, then one day I took  the other children in my care to a toddler group session,Lydia was there with her grandchildren and when they saw me they seemed to forget who they were with and came to me for everything, could I take them to the toilet, put on painting aprons and so on. I didn’t mind really and as they were with their granny it meant that I wasn’t breaking my number ratio.

Another parent brought her mum along  for the interview with me and the grand parent made it very clear that she didn’t think her grand son should be going to a child minder at all  as she was quite capable of looking after him


Anyway  the mum decided that her son WAS going to be spending time with me! When his mother wasn’t feeling well , she phoned me to say that the child’s grand mother would collect him for her. when granny arrived and attempted to put on Johnny’s coat, he was having none of it and screamed, she then took a big breath and said, “Could you put his coat on, please Karen?as he obviously prefers you” Later I had an apology from Johnny’s grand mother admitting how wrong she had been as Johnny really enjoyed his time with me.

Another scenario  was when a young parent came to see me after getting a recommendation from a friend and said that her husband wanted his mum to take care of their daughter while they both at work, but she knew that if her mother-in-law had her child  she would most likely be sat in front of the television  for most of the time as the lady was getting older and didn’t venture out much. She knew from her friend that I did loads with the children and took them out most days, eventually we set up a similar arrangement to Michael’s keeping everyone happy.

There are pros and cons to using a child minder over family members and as everyone is different, parents have to do what they think is best for their child and other family, by having joint care the child gets the best of both worlds, in my opinion, time to socialise with other children while at the child minders home and quality time with grand parents

As well as sharing child care with a grand parent, or two I have also shared care of a child with other early years settings and another child minder.

Laura required 3 days a week but at the time I only had 2 that I could offer so she came to me for them

and went to another child minder for the third day later when the space became available she came to my setting for all the days, she is grown now and still refers to me as her second mum as I must have done something right’

As always questions/comments are welcome






Susan, who has been a child minder for just over a year got in touch and asked if I could offer some advice on transition documents.

There are many documents available to buy or download on the market, but I used to make my own using the computer.  Basically they need to include the child’s name, date of birth, your contact details ( I also added my Ofsted Reg. No) roughly how long the child has been with you and how they have progressed during that time. The document has to be signed by the carer and parent.

I recall a particular child, Harry, who had a significant speech delay when he first came to me. I have written about Harry in more detail in a post titled Double Dutch When Harry was ready to leave my child minding setting to go to a school nursery

, I had never written a transition document before, I wanted and needed to include the speech delay, but knew I had to be respectful of him and his mother who never took him for a hearing test

. My first thought was not to mention it at all, but I realised that his teacher would soon discover this for herself and may think that his child minder was not very good  as she never said anything about it.

What I did was to write that Harry was a happy child who got on well with his peers and had shown signs of speech delay when he first came to me but that he was now making progress.

I had another parent who worked as a special needs nursery nurse, ask for my opinion about her son, ” Do you think there is something wrong with David?” she asked me.I did think that there was something not quite right, but would never say anything to upset or offend a parent, so I replied that, “In my experience, he was a little slower in his development than the average child, but as all children are different, I wouldn’t worry too much, monitor his progress and mention it to your health visitor at the next appointment” she seemed happy with that, David was diagnosed with a mild form of autism after leaving me so my instinct had been correct.

Back to the document, you can make it quite simple, Susan with only the essential information, but I have heard of early years settings who include a photo of the child and even some of their artwork

I think that child minders have an advantage over other early years settings as we tend to work more on a one-one basis , having fewer children than a nursery or pre-school  means that we can get to know our children really well which should make writing this document easier. also there shouldn’t be too many children leaving at once, unlike a larger setting who may have a dozen or so .   leave to start school.

I hope this has helped Susan and given you a few ideas, if you have any further questions you know where I am!

As always questions/comments are welcome







Once when I was a child minder and went to collect my youngest son from school, while I was waiting for him to come out of the classroom the head mistress came over to speak to me, ” Mrs. Dennis,” she said, “I need to apologise, as I have done something terrible today.” My first thought was has she killed my child? All she had done was to give my name and telephone number to a new parent who had asked about a child minder who could collect her boys from school, I said to the teacher that it was perfectly alright, but she insisted that she should have asked my permission first.

Anyway the parent phoned me the following day and asked if I was able to collect her two sons from school on Monday afternoon. after she accepted my fee and gave me the vital information I needed we decided we would complete a contract and other paperwork when she collected the children from my house.

On Monday when I went to  get the children from the village school they attended I began to wonder what Dylan and Colin would be like , as other than their names and ages I knew nothing about them.

The school secretary who had seen me waiting in the playground from her office window came out to see me, “Karen, you are taking Dylan and Colin today aren’t you?Dylan is lovely,” she said then she waked away.

I started to think what was wrong with Colin if only Dylan was lovely. Dylan then came out with my son with a big grin on his face

. and did indeed look lovely. I never got to meet Colin at this occasion  as the head mistress came out again and told me that their mother had been trying to contact me to say that as Colin was going to football practice after school

she would fetch him before coming to get Dylan from my house.

Later after signing the contract ( which ideally should be signed before the arrangements start) I finally got to meet Colin who WAS also lovely.

I continued to collect Dylan from school every Monday for about 6 months or so until his family moved again and we lost touch. I have written a post about the activities I planned for the older children.

My son informed me that although he was friends with Colin he was glad that he never came home with us as he didn’t want to spend time with him after school as well as all day so it all worked out for the best.

I would love to hear if other child minders have been in a similar scenario.

As always questions/comments are welcome.





Regular readers will be well aware that I worked as a registered child minder for 14 very happy years. years, I proudly managed to achieve an outstanding grade from Ofsted at my last inspection.

Sandra has asked for some tips to enable her to get a similar result.

I displayed some disability posters in my playroom, these can be purchased quite easily and at a reasonable cost. I obtained mine from magazines, such as Nursery world and Nursery education who often have posters in their publications.


I had also been privileged in that I had cared for several children with varying special needs , which I mentioned to my ofsted inspector. I explained how I modified activities so everyone could take part, you can read more about this in my post titled planning child minding activities to suit everyone.

Another tip I have is to  borrow some toys that reflect disability and diversity from the toy library, if you belong to a child minding network they will be able to point you in the right direction to access this.

I borrowed books from the library too one of my favourites which challenges equality is Amazing Grace.

I’m not suggesting that you only obtain these items for your inspection and never use them again, but it doesn’t hurt to have them on show during the inspection.

It is a huge advantage if your family are behind you in your child minding career, as being a child minder can have an effect on other members of your family I have also written on how child minding can benefit your own children. Although my husband would not admit it now he was fantastic at encouraging and supporting me throughout my child minding years.

While I was being inspected , which can feel quite daunting, I was looking after an extremely bright 4 year old child who I’m sure helped me to achieve my grade as when the inspector asked him what he liked to do at my house he told her, “Read The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson!”which really impressed her.

Ensure that all your paperwork is up to date including contracts and early learning journals. I gathered all of mine together before the inspection started so that she could look at it as it suited her. The inspector looked at some while chatting to me and asked if she could take the rest home to study in more detail. On leaving she told me that she was very impressed by what she had seen so far and that I was heading towards a good grading.I will admit that I felt a little disappointed at hearing this as I was hoping for an outstanding .

One of the questions I remember being asked was “Did I treat all children the same?” my initial thought was of course I do, but I actually answered that I treat all children as individuals as you can’t treat a small baby the same as a 6 year old and a child with special needs may need  treating differently, so I treat all children as individuals depending on their age and stage of development.

I made a comments/complaints book (as I never received any complaints it only contained comments) which parents had left for me, I will confess that occasionally when a parent had complimented me I had asked if they would mind writing it in my book so that I could show it at my inspection.

I received a phone call roughly 24 hours after my inspection informing me that I had been awarded the outstanding grade, the report followed a week or so later which I photocopied and gave to my child minding parents so they would hopefully appreciate their fantastic child minder!

Following my tips won’t guarantee that you will get an outstanding grade Sandra but hopefully it will help you to have a bit more confidence about it all, use it as an opportunity to show how good you are!

 As always comments/questions are welcome




Samantha has asked me for some tips to make food shopping with her children a bit easier.

Food shopping at the supermarket can be quite stressful if you have young children with you.

When my 2 sons had to accompany me every week to the supermarket, my youngest who was almost 2 years old would have a temper tantrum as soon as I attempted to sit him in the trolley, he would make himself stiff and lie on the floor screaming, the reason behind this was because his brother who was two years older would walk around the shop rather than ride, in those days there were only trolleys available with one child seat. I tried to negotiate with him but this made matters worse, eventually I let him lie on the floor kicking and screaming inside the supermarket and we walked away letting him think that it was not a big deal. I must point out that I could see my child at all times and he was quite safe. He looked up, saw us walking away then jumped up ran after us and held up his arms asking to go into the trolley, I never encountered this problem again!

As my children grew older I came up with an idea to make shopping more interesting for them, we made shopping lists at home together before going to the supermarket. I would say that we needed sugar, for example, my 4 and a half year old would write an S mark on his list. When we started the shop and collected the sugar, he crossed the S from his paper, my youngest son, who was now sat strapped into the trolley didn’t have an S on his list to cross off, so the tantrum reared it’s head again, he threw the paper and pen onto the floor in frustration. In hindsight, if I had more time and energy I could have cut pictures from magazines and made him a visual list to use that he would have found easier.

When I was a child minder I didn’t attempt to do a full food shop with the children in tow, but occasionally we would pop in for a few items, I would encourage the older children to help weigh any fruit and vegetables. I once made a time consuming mistake of allowing a girl, of around 3 years to scan my shopping for me at the self service check out, she thought this was wonderful and wanted to scan the groceries of the customer behind us too, who was more than happy to let her oblige, if I hadn’t insisted that it was time to leave I think we would still be there!.

Once I was walking through the town after visiting the library with a child in a buggy, when I noticed that my favourite clothes store was having a sale, I took the child in his buggy into the changing room so I could try on a dress I gave the boy the token that the shop assistant issued stating how many items I had to look after, he thought that it was really important and held tightly onto it. As a reward for being so good while we were in the clothes shop I told Sammy that  we could either visit the toy shop or the pet store as a treat, he chose the pet shop and when he saw some cute baby guinea pigs he presumed that I was going to buy him one, luckily he was content to just watch and talk about them with me.

Back to the supermarket,on another occasion I was shopping alone before starting my day of child minding when I came across one of my minded children with her mother on seeing me the child informed her mother that she wanted to help me with my shopping as it was more fun and that is what happened , the girl came with me and the parent disappeared!

My tips, Samantha for successful shopping are try to make it fun by involving your children and reward good behaviour with lots of praise, there is more about this in my post on behaviour management.

As always questions/ comments are welcome



As a child minder you may well find yourself with a variety of children of different ages to look after. Unlike many nursery settings, who usually have the under 1’s in a separate baby room; a child minder will look after all ages together.

I tried my best to include all the children in all activities whenever possible, for example; when I sang rhymes such as “This Little Piggy” or “Round & Round The Garden” to a baby, I would encourage the older children to sing too. When singing action songs like “Row,Row, Row Your Boat” I would sit a small baby on my lap, a child old enough to sit would sit opposite myself, or with an older child under supervision.

I would also include a baby from around 6 months to participate in activities such as play dough by strapping into a highchair up to the table. Be aware that a child of this age will want to put everything into their mouth; so be very vigilant.

In my experience a baby will learn so much from an older child that an adult can’t somehow achieve, equally; older children gain so much from the little ones, such as watching them develop and reach milestones.

I used to have learning journey folders for all the children in my care. For the under 3’s I followed the “birth to three” matters framework, and colour code the different stages, for example if I witnessed a baby hold her head up I would colour that purple indicating a strong child, and pink for a skilful communicator and so on. I also included photos, which parents appreciate and samples of their child’s art work.

As always questions/ comments are welcome



I think it is a good idea to make your health visitor aware that you are a registered childminder; this will be the first port of call for many new mothers intending to return to work. Another good way of advertising is to be seen out and about. Go to local toddler group sessions and events at the children’s library. I used to wear a t-shirt with the name of my business printed on it. Having a name for your business makes it appear more professional, however; people may confuse you with a nursery setting. Outside local schools while collecting your own or minded children is another place where you will be noticed. It is a good idea to let the school secretary know that you are a registered childminder and are able to drop-off or collect pupils from that particular school.

My biggest tip to marketing your own childminding business is to always be on your best behaviour (May seem a strange thing to say) but when you are out and about in the community with your minded children; members of the public do tend to look at you (sometimes in horror, when they see how many children you have with you) I have been asked on many occasions, questions, such as, “How many children do you actually have?” and “Why are your children so well behaved?” Both of which made the person asking the question feel a bit embarrassed when I explained that I was a busy childminder.
Always ensure that you carry some business cards with you; if you don’t have business cards, you really should get them as sometimes people may scribble your details down on the back of something an then accidentally throw them away; whereas with business cards people tend to keep them in their purse or wallet. (One of my son’s offers a design and print service for professional business cards so please contact me for info) I was even asked if I had a card whilst queuing in a public toilet! (again it was an inquisitive person commenting on how I had my hands full,with so many little ones) When I said I was a childminder her response was that her friend was looking for one and could she have my details to pass on?

I used to advertise in as many places as possible when I had vacancies. I tried to do this where it wouldn’t cost me too much money. The most successful was at local toddler groups on their notice boards, but I have also placed a notice in my local hair dressing salon and in my rear car window. I did for a while have my car professionally sign written on the back. This showed my name, business name, the fact I was a registered childminder, my phone number and web site. Speaking of websites; I feel that these days an strong online presence is essential for every business as nowadays parents tend to search online for what they are looking for before looking anywhere else. An online presence sounds really daunting and you may get bogged down and confused with all the jargon. I was very lucky as one of my sons created my website for me when I was childminding; he also created this blog website for me too! If you need help or advice with creating an online presence then contact me and I will put you in touch with him.

As always; any comments or questions are most welcome.



Anyone caring for a child under the age of 8 years who is not related to them and for any kind of reward, must become registered by Ofsted Early Years.

Many people will think that by becoming a child minder their own children will suffer,  however because child minders are self employed they can set their own working days and times to suit their own families.


Advantages are that you don’t have to find childcare for your own children whilst you work; as you care for them at the same time that you are childminding other children. Remember though; your children are counted in the number you are permitted to have at a time. When I was child minding this was one child under the age of 1 year,  3 children under the age of 5 years, including the under 1’s and 6 under 8 years. (In some circumstances; Ofsted may allow some child minders who are very experienced to care for 2 children under the age of 1. I was allowed to do this) I also had two over 8s during the school holidays.

Another advantage of being self employed is that you are able to attend school activities that your children are involved with; such as sports day, special assemblies and the all important Christmas Nativity plays. Being a child minder, meant that I could  go along to all such things that otherwise wouldn’t have been manageable had I worked for an employer. Of course, it meant that I had to take the minded children along too; but I know that they benefited from and enjoyed these events too. One occasion which comes to mind is when my youngest son was playing football for his primary school. It was a pleasant day weather wise, so I packed a few snacks and drinks and we all sat on my picnic blanket to watch the match. Each time my son got possession of the ball the children chanted and cheered him along; it must have looked as though he had brought along his own cheer leaders!

Being a child minder also meant that I spent more quality time doing certain activities with my own children that we otherwise may never have done.

I must point out that there are many strict rules and regulations set by Ofsted that all child minders must follow; but basically you can do as little, or as much child minding as you chose (depending on demand and the needs of parents) You can also take up as much training as you like; apart from the essential training that all childminders MUST do before they can gain a certificate allowing them to begin child minding (these are a first aid course, which must be refreshed every 3 years. There is also a pre registration course, that explains what child minding is about and a foundation course which introduces new child minders to the business side of child minding and loads of other essential information). Personally I took as much training as I could; as my motto is “if you do something, give it your all” My qualifications consisted of an NVQ Level 3 in Early Years Care and Education. Behaviour Management, Speech Delay Special Needs (and too many more to list!)

I spent 14 very happy years as a child minder; achieving the “Outstanding” grade at my last inspection (of which I am very proud) I was forced to give up child minding up due to suffering a major stroke ten years ago; but many of my minded children are still in touch with me, and I would love to take it up again if recovery allows.

For more information on becoming a registered child minder contact Ofsted, your local authority or Pacey; details can be found online. Most areas also have child minding support groups; where you can obtain training information and details of any available funding.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

Understandably it can be quite daunting for a newly registered child minder to do their first interview, or meeting with a parent for the first time.

You learn with experience; this is how I handled it, and I did manage to convince most parents to pick me as their child minder.

Usually, a parent would contact me to check availability. If I had the desired place available, I would suggest that the parent came to my house with their child to meet me over a coffee. I suspect that a lot of parents are equally as nervous about the situation, so the word “interview” can sound a little formal. I preferred to see a new parent during my working day if possible; while child minding children were present, as that gave a good view of how happy the children were with me. Although on one occasion; the 6 month old child I was looking after cried for the whole time a new parent was present! I thought this would put her off, but she actually booked me there and then saying that it had proved to her that I was a patient person, as she would have thrown him out of the window!

When the door bell went; I would be accompanied by several little people, all eager to see our visitors. When we got back to my playroom (I was very fortunate to have a separate room for my child minding, but many child minders use their lounge/living room; so don’t worry if you don’t have a designated area such as a playroom) I would invite the parents; usually Mum and Dad to take a seat (sometimes Grand Parents came along as well.) As it was my playroom; there were always toys out and most children were only too happy to make a beeline for new, interesting toys. This helped keep the child amused whilst I chatted with their Mum and Dad. I would then offer the parents a tea or coffee and suggest that the they have a browse through my portfolio while I was waiting for the kettle to boil. The portfolio contained all of my qualification certificates, policies and procedures etc. When I returned refreshments to hand; I would sit down and introduce the existing children and maybe give a little insight as to how often they came and how long they have been attending.

I would then ask if they had been to see a child minder before. The reason I asked this is because if they had, it would mean they should have a vague idea of how child minders work. Sometimes a parent was embarrassed to admit they have already looked elsewhere; but I would reassure them that I think it is important to see different settings, as although we all have to follow strict rules and regulations set by Ofsted we are all individuals, and it is important to find someone you feel comfortable with. The vast majority hadn’t been anywhere else (or they never admitted to it!) so I would start by pointing out my registration certificate that was proudly framed on my wall, along with what I called my “big qualification certificates” such as my NVQ. I would also show things like my insurance  document, which was in the portfolio, but as some parents, only glanced at it quickly whilst I was making the drinks, they may have missed it.

I also explained about first aid and that my qualification had to be renewed every 3 years. I would tell about other members of my household and introduce them to my husband (if he was at home) I would also introduce them to my pets; I had a cat, 2 rabbits that lived outside and my German Shepherd dog. I was concerned sometimes, that having such a large dog may put some parents off. My dog was wonderful, and I would trust her with my life; although personally, I don’t think any dog should be left, unsupervised with a child ever. To my knowledge; no-one was put off by my dog, or any of my other pets.

One the introductions were over I would then explain what we usually did on the days the new child would hopefully be attending. For example; child minders drop-in on a Monday, Toddler group on a Tuesday and so on. We would then look at paperwork together. Things such as contracts, contact information sheets and discuss any allergies that their child may of had.I explained about my accident/incident book and why I had to list any existing injuries a child may have. It was important that the parents told me if their child had a bump or bruise that had happened whilst not in my care; this was  in order to protect myself from allegations.

Most parents like to go away and think before they commit to a place; but I have had a few who decide straight away that I was the child minder that they wanted. I would then ask for a deposit to reserve the space if the child wasn’t starting for a while.

As I have already said; you learn with experience as you become established as a child minder. It takes time, but remember to relax and take a deep breath. HAPPY CHILD MINDING!

As always questions/comments are welcome.


As an early years practitioner; you should be very aware of the need to work with the children’s parents in partnership. Here are some of my experiences of this from my many years as a child minder.
I liked to think that I knew the children I was caring for extremely well, but I never forgot that the parents were the real experts on their child (although sometimes this was difficult to understand.)
I preferred the parents to send a packed lunch with their children so I didn’t need to worry about preparing food. One boy; always had cheese and cucumber sandwiches, it soon became apparent to me that he didn’t like cucumber as he would either spit it out or remove it from between the bread before eating. I started to place the uneaten cucumber back in his lunch box rather than throw it away, thinking that his mother would realize that he didn’t like it and would send something different; but no, the cheese and cucumber kept arriving for weeks.
Another parent which comes to mind was a father who asked when I was going to teach his son the alphabet, I explained as I wasn’t a teacher I hadn’t expected to teach him but considered that the child knew what he needed to know for his age of just over 3. I explained that he would point to the letters on the alphabet chart displayed on my play room wall and tell me that “A” was for Alec (my husband’s name) “J” was for John (another child I was looking After) “K” was for Karen (my name) and would then point to the letter that his name started with. I also said that I thought this was very clever for his age.

Later that evening, my husband (who had overheard the earlier conversation) asked me why I was so polite and that he would have told the parent to go away (or similar!) For a child minding or any early years arrangement to work I believe it is paramount that parents and carers have a good relationship.

I always tried to find time at drop-off and pick-up time to discuss things with parents; for example a child may be tired due to a restless night or under the weather because of teething. I also liked to talk about how my day with their child had been by telling them what we had done, how long the child had napped for and so on. If it wasn’t convenient to chat at those times (because other parents were present or little ears were listening) I would suggest that they ring me, or I ring them later that evening.

I also had what I referred to as a “to and through book” this worked with one family who had arranged for the child’s aunt to do the collection. I had previously met her at the first interview, The book worked as a backup Incase the aunt forgot to pass on anything.

During my Ofsted Inspection; I was asked about how I worked with the parents of the children I looked after. One example I gave to the inspector was of the time one parent who had English as a second language had asked me what her daughter liked to do when she was with me. I told her that she loved play-dough. I had given the parent the recipe so she could make some play-dough with her daughter at home. The Ofsted inspector must have approved; as I was awarded an “outstanding” grade at my last inspection.

As always questions/ comments are welcome

This is an article that I originally wrote for “childcare Expo.”

I worked as a registered child minder for 14 very happy years; in all that time, I only ‘went sick’ once. This was because I had a bad stomach upset and there was no way that I could have looked after children (not that I would have; because of the risk of passing the bug onto them) I had no other choice but to phone the parent. Luckily; on this particular day I unusually only had one child booked  and explained my situation. The parent was very understanding and said she would take a days holiday from work.

I was a member of the local child minding network; Devon child minding association (DMCA) and knew of other child minders in the area; one, in particular lived about a mile from me. We often got together with our little ones so all the children knew each other and both of us which meant that she was my named child minder  in case of an emergency and, I was hers.

Being in such a group of other child minders could work in that; with consent from the parent, a child minder could pass on details for parents to ask in the case of their child minder being ill. This would depend on the new minder having a space for an extra child of course.

I had 4 children of my own; who were also sometimes sick. If one of them just had a mild cold but didn’t feel up to attending school, I would phone the child minding parents and explain what was happening and I would then offer them the choice of either sending their child as usual; or keep them away.  I must say, most still sent them! I wouldn’t have given them this choice for a more serious illness, as part of being a responsible child minder is to keep children safe and to prevent spreading infectious illnesses.

Another scenario to be aware of is when a parent sends a sick child to their child minder without mentioning that the child are ill. I recall one particular occasion when this happened. A child of about 18 months arrived with her mum; I did mention, at the time that the child looked a little pale, but her mother dismissed this telling me she was only teething. An hour or so later when I changed the child’s nappy; it was clear that she wasn’t well and as she had quite a sore looking bottom. I suspected this wasn’t the first time it had happened. I rang the parent and requested that she collected her daughter as she was unwell. She did this; but unfortunately the damage had already  been done. I came down with this bug a few days later meaning I couldn’t work.  My Husband then caught the bug; so he couldn’t work either (he was self employed also, so didn’t get paid for being off sick) Then each of my boys came down with it in turn; meaning that again I had to turn child minded children away.

I learnt from this experience and made it quite clear to parents at the first interview that I don’t allow sick children in my care.

Ironically, I had to give up child minding ten years ago due to ill health ( a lot more serious than an upset stomach) Below is a photo of me now; reading a story to my Grandchildren.

As always; any comments or questions are most welcome.

I was privileged to work as a registered child minder for many happy years, meaning that I never had to leave my children in childcare; other than in pre-school play groups.

Being a child minder; I was aware of a parents guilt, and hardly a week goes by without something similar being brought up on television programmes such as “Loose Women” and “This Morning.” I was once told by one of my child minding parents that she expected me to think that she was selfish because she chose to leave her baby with me while she went to work. In reality; I don’t think that many mothers have a choice going back to work after having a baby and that it is very much a necessity, what with the rising cost of living. As long as a parent chooses the right childcare for them and their child everything will be fine.

Going back to the child minding parent; she told me that she felt by leaving her child with me, for a couple of days a week while she worked would make her a better parent. She explained that she didn’t have the patience that I was blessed with and therefore only spending part of the week at home with her child would be better for them both. I replied by telling her that if everyone was like me and chose to stay at home with their children then I would be out of a job! This women was and still is an amazing  parent and she should be very proud of her daughter!

Other parents I have worked for have appeared not to be overly interested in what their child has to say when they come to collect them at the end of the day with me; they have nothing to feel guilty about, they may have had a stressful day and just want to get their child home to some peace and quiet.

I also came across a grandmother who had pangs of guilt, she felt that because she was the grandparent; she should be the person to look after her grandson while his mother at was work but when she really thought about this she admitted that she didn’t want to be tied to a young child at her time in life and after all; she had brought up her own children. Eventually, between us; myself, the mum and grandmother, we came up with a solution. She looked after her grandson for one day a week and paid the fees for me to have him the other two days required. This granny did tell me when I saw her her a few months later, that she felt that her grandson had benefited from also coming to me  as I did lots with him; such as taking him to toddler group sessions etc; whereas she tended to stay at home with him.

Another new mum became very upset when leaving her baby with me for the first time. I tried to reassure her by saying that I would look after him. She replied ”If I didn’t know that, we wouldn’t be here!” I told her that she was welcome to phone me as many times during the day as she wished; but she said she wouldn’t ring as if she did and heard her son crying in the back ground, it would upset her and if she didn’t hear him, she would worry why she couldn’t hear him!

The point I am trying to make from this post is that being a stay at home, or working mum is a personal choice. You need to do whichever is best for your family and not feel guilty about it.

I strongly believe that the children I looked after benefited from coming to me (not that I’m implying  that they wouldn’t have done equally as well if they hadn’t been in my care) but it certainly didn’t  harm them.

As always comments/ questions are welcome.

Another child minder (also called Karen!) has asked me for ideas that are suitable  for the older children. She also child minds after school;  however most of her activities and games are aimed at younger children.

The older children that I looked after liked arts and crafts (especially the girls) Making dolls out of wool was a very popular activity, the boys often referred to wolly dolls as woolly robots.

Quick pom-poms, which maybe a good starting point for you before you make wolly dolls are also very popular with older children.

Treasure Keepsake Box

Another popular activity suitable for all ages, is to decorate an empty shoe box to make a treasure box. Give each child an empty shoe box ( most shoe shops are only too pleased to give these away) P.V.A. glue and a variety of pictures and stickers.

I used to use my old Christmas cards that were saved from previous years to decorate their boxes. The older children may like to assist the younger ones in cutting out pictures.

You can supply glitter too, if you can manage the mess. I used to make these, with the children, in the run-up to Christmas and use them to store all the items they made at various toddler group sessions, they would then take the filled box home on their last day with me before Christmas. This idea could be amended for other occasions such as Easter, or as a holiday keepsake treasure box.

Bird Feeding Station

If you have a window that overlooks a garden it’s a great idea to put up a bird feeder.

I also got the children to make their own bird cakes by adding nuts, dried mixed fruit and suet to melted lard. Put the mixture into empty yogurt cartons, with string attached to the bottoms. When they are cold and set, take them out of the yoghurt pot and hang them upside down from a tree branch for the birds to enjoy . The children can look out for birds and use reference books to identify the different varieties and even work out which food the different breeds prefer.

Salt Dough

Salt dough is another activity older children may enjoy. It is simple and cheap to make, place a cup of flour and half a cup of salt in a bowl and slowly stir in up to a cup of of water, the mixture needs to be sticky, but not too wet., kneed together, then roll out and get creative. The dough then needs to dry out, 3 minutes in a microwave on a low setting works well. Then paint, or use glitter to decorate.

I am a great believer in getting children out and about whenever possible, this may not be suitable for after school; but good if you have older ones in the school holidays, as I did.

Something very popular in Autumn time is to take them on a conker and acorn treasure hunt.

I hope, this has given you some ideas.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

For as long as I can remember I have always loved babies and children (and anything to do with them) including an interest in pregnancy and birth. All I ever wanted to do when I was growing up playing with baby dolls was to to get married and have children. I did get married, aged 19 and had two sons when I was 22 and 24. When my boys where aged 4 and 6 I got divorced but re-married; gained a step-son and had a third son with my new husband when I was 29. I would happily have carried on having more babies until I was too old to have any more but, my husband (who was more practical) said we had enough. Although secretly; I suspect he would have liked a daughter too!
When I heard about child minding, it seemed the obvious choice of career. I had worked as a clerical assistant for the Inland Revenue (now known as HMRC) before becoming a mother and had no real desire to go back to that and have to leave my children with someone else. Becoming a child minder would mean that I could earn some much needed money (of which, I earned a decent amount when I became experienced and established, as a child minder) and could look after my own children at the same time.

When I first started, my three eldest where at school; so being a child minder also meant that my youngest had play mates during the day when they were all in school. It also meant that I didn’t have to miss out on important events in the school calendar, such as sport’s days and Nativity Plays. It sometimes meant taking a few child minded children along with me; but we all benefited from these occasions.

I made the initial enquiries into becoming a child minder and was invited to attend an informal preregistration meeting to find out more. At this time such events were organised by Social Services, but it is different now. After attending this and liking what I learnt, I took the next step and a lovely lady came to inspect my home for suitability. She approved the house and left me with a lot of paperwork to complete, including C.R.B (criminal records bureau, now known as DBS) checks, for both myself and my husband (my boys were also CRB checked when they reached 16 years of age)
Three months or so later I received my Registration Certificate, of which I was extremely proud and my child minding journey began.
I worked as a child minder for 14 years, achieving OUTSTANDING at my last inspection. Sadly ill health forced me to stop child minding ten years ago (at the time of writing this)

I still have many very happy memories, and am still in touch with many of the children and their parents and am proud to say that two of them refer to me as their “second mum”
I hope to make a full recovery and one day be able to go back to this wonderful vocation.
I can’t say that I found anything about child minding a challenge, as I had a lot of support from the Devon Childminding Association (DCMA) and was an active member of their child minding network; saying that it defiantly helps if you are organised, as there is a lot of paperwork to get through and when I was full I would spend more time writing up notes for Ofsted early years than I did with the children. I must point out that I NEVER attempted to do the paperwork, while I had children present, but did that in the evenings, after they had gone home. Having an inspection can also be a stressful time, but I used to look at it as a chance to show off how good a child minder I was!

The best part of being a child minder for me was that; as I have already mentioned, I didn’t have to worry about finding child care for my children while I worked.

I would recommend child minding to anyone who enjoys spending time with children. You can read more of my experiences in other blog posts and in my e-book, also called the next best thing to mummy, available to download from Amazon shop to an electronic device.

If this has inspired you to become a child minder; contact your local authority or visit, for more information. Happy Childminding!

As always comments/questions are welcome.



Rebecca, who is a registered child minder has suggested this blog topic.

As a registered child minder; you should be invited to attend meetings and courses, on the basics of keeping child minding accounts, for tHMRC. As a self-employed person, record keeping is your responsibility.

You can, of course, hire an accountant to do this for you and there are many companies, who will offer help, but, as most child minders wouldn’t be able to afford this luxury, doing-it-yourself, seems a better option. That said there is a company called “Mazuma Money” who my second child (now aged 29) uses for his children’s entertainments company, he tells me they are fantastic and very reasonably priced (if you do go with them please mention his name “Damon Gaunt”)

I always kept my own income and expenditure records, quite simply in an exercise book, although there are specialist books and worksheets available to buy, from a variety of suppliers.

If you opt to do your own, keep all receipts. ( I used to put mine monthly in separate recycled old envelopes). As well, as being able  to claim large expenses against your tax, such as, start up costs like safety equipment for your home such as safety gates, a fire guard and the compulsory fire blanket. Plus of course, the cost of buying toys and story books.

You can also put a percentage of utility bills and any rent, if you rent your home ( when I was a child minder, this was 10%, but it may of changed now, so do check with HMRC) First aid qualifications and other training can be quite costly, so claim for these too. Don’t forget to include the smaller expenses, they all add up to a considerable amount, like the cost of attending toddler group sessions. If you visit several each week (as I did) it will cost more than you realise; although you are able to charge this to the child’s parent, if you write it into the contract at the first interview. I used my car to take the children out (with written consent from parents) on trips further afield to local attractions. I kept a track of my mileage, by setting the mile counter on my car, also keep car parking fee tickets, as these can add up quite quickly.

I sometimes took the child minded children to a local soft play centre, where I would buy myself a coffee, while watching the children play. I put this expense through my books too, because if I wasn’t a child minder, I would be drinking coffee at home; not buying a more expensive one, while out!

I also purchased ice creams for the children on a warm day, the ice cream seller most likely won’t issue a receipt, but you can still claim it as an expense. I once had a lovely parent offer to pay for an ice cream for all the children I was taking out on a particular day, as she said I was using my petrol to take them out and she wanted to help by buying treats, I thanked her for her kind offer and I explained that it was all tax deductible.

Subscription to magazines, like Nursery world and nursery education are another expense, you may not think of claiming for. I found both of these publications invaluable for activity ideas and for obtaining posters to display in my playroom. Spending money on marketing your child minding business, is also money well spent and of course, is something that is tax deductible. As always comments/ questions are welcome.

I always found HMRC to be very helpful, if I ever needed advice. The self assessment forms they issue every year are not as horrific, as they appear at first glance, if you tackle them calmly and slowly.

As always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to leave a comment. You can also contact me privately by clicking here.

When I worked as a child minder, I found that most of the new child minded children settled in remarkably quickly. I have written, in more detail, about a particular child, who took a little longer, in another blog post, titled “child minding tales – separation anxiety”

I think, it is actually more distressing for the parent than for the child, when they first start going to a new child minder. Some parents ask if they can stay for a while, but i find that this can just prolong the upset (for the parent)

In my experience, a child may cry as the parent goes to leave and as soon after they are out of sight they stop crying and start playing.

They have a great day and then sometimes cry again when mum arrives to collect them, this time because they don’t want to go home! This must be very upsetting to witness, as the adult thinks her child has been miserable all day, so I always mention this scenario at the first interview, if the parents seem concerned.

I often encouraged another child, who had been with me for a while, to help with settling in a new child. For example, I would suggest to the established child, that he show the new child, where we hang up our coats.

Children often take more easily to other children, than to adults. Using this method, also gives the original child a sense of responsibility, which makes them feel good about themselves.

I had one 4 year old, who was particularly good at helping me with this task. He was very interested in a six month old baby, who had just started in my setting. We were having lunch together, one day, as I offered the baby a spoonful of his dinner and he opened his mouth wide, like a baby bird.

The older boy suddenly noticed that the little one didn’t have any teeth “Oh, look Karen, he has lost all his teeth!” hew exclaimed, in shock. I explained that the baby hadn’t lost his teeth and that because he was still a baby his teeth hadn’t come through yet. Every morning, after that the boy would ask, as he arrived if the baby had grown teeth yet!

On a similar subject; another child (this time a girl) was very taken with a new younger child. About 6 months or so after the older child had started with me, the younger one started walking, for the first time. I never told a parent, if their child took it’s first step while with me, as I wouldn’t want to rob them of that precious moment. The older child was so excited, her mum actually thanked me the following day, saying that when her Daddy had come home from work she couldn’t wait to tell him what had happened while she was at her child minders that day.  Her mum went on to say, that as her daughter was their youngest and they didn’t plan on having any more children, she would never have had this experience. She also attended a pre school, but as all the children there were of a similar age to this girl, she wouldn’t get to see anything as exciting there.


As I have already mentioned most children settle with a new child minder quite quickly and easily. It amazes me how when I took a new child to a toddler group session, with many other ladies present; they seemed to instantly know, it was me they had to return to after playing in a group with other children.

I had several of my minded children for many happy years, often when they left to go on to nursery or school, a younger sibling would take their place. Sometimes the older child, would return during the school holidays, meaning even more fun!

As always comments/questions are welcome.

As a Child Minder you are at an advantage over a larger setting such as a nursery (I’m my opinion anyway) when it comes to planning activities for the children in your care. For example; I like to think that when I was a child minder I knew the children I looked after really well and could therefore plan activities to suit individuals.

I had one boy, who loved vehicles and anything associated with them, so we went out for a walk, taking my camera with us. I let Mark, take photos of Road Signs (under supervision, to ensure the camera didn’t get damaged) We discussed what each sign meant and the different shapes and colours as we came across them.

When we got back to my house,  I set up the computer and Mark helped me to print off his photos, he managed to feed the paper into the printer with a little guidance and he pressed the appropriate buttons (this covered the ITC section of the early learning goals)

Another boy I looked after, was struggling and showed little interest in activities. He had recently been to the cinema with his family to see the film “Madagascar” which he loved so I planned an activity for him around this. I took him to the library, where we searched together for books about animals featured in the film and discovered one on meercats and lemurs. Back home , we looked at the book and talked about the animals – how many legs they had, what they may eat and so on. I also encouraged him to draw his own pictures of the animals and to colour them in the correct shades of colour by referring back to the book.

I once was child minding a boy who was a little slow to learn things and was I was struggling with activities to cover the mathematical early learning goal with him. He enjoyed playing with toy cars in the Playroom so my husband made a wooden ramp to slide the cars down.

When he slid the toy cars down the ramp, I encouraged him to measure how far it had travelled. He would not have understood the concept of centimetres so instead we used cars as a measuring tool; e,g, the red car moved a distance of 6 car lengths. When writing my observation, of this activity later I said that as the child progressed and began to understand numbers better, we would re-visit the activity and use a ruler or tape measure to calculate the distance using centimetres this time, so he learnt maths language.

Another child; who was also a little slower than average, was having trouble learning the names of colours. Each time I asked what colour an object was, his younger sister would reply for him. I came to the conclusion that he really had no idea where the names of colours were concerned, so instead of asking, “What colour is this?” I held up a blue crayon and told him “this is blue, can you find me another blue one, please?” He liked this game and found it quite easy to recognise the same colour and eventually he started to tell me the names of the colours as he picked them up.

One afternoon I set up an activity using some empty cardboard boxes an other junk making materials. We sat together and began making models. We all had great fun doing this!

I also had an 18 month old baby in my care, that day, who wanted to join in, so I presented him with a small box and some masking tape. He spent a considerable amount of time concentrating sticking pieces of tape onto his box and pulling them off again. He giggled as he did this, while also watching the older children creating their masterpieces.

Another group of children I was minding were enjoying having running races in my garden. I had a disabled child at the same time. To ensure that she didn’t miss out, I took them all to the local park, when the children started to race I ran pushing Mary in her wheelchair along side them. She screamed in delight and stretched out her arms, pretending she was an aeroplane.

These are only a few examples of ways that activities can be amended  to suit children at different stages of learning and development. Use your imagination and have fun helping children to learn as they play.

As always questions/comments are most welcome.

Many people are of the impression that child minders just put their little ones in front of the television and leave them to get on with it.

Hopefully, my account of a typical day for me when I was a child minder, will show that for most this is far from the truth.

A typical, let’s say Monday for me would begin with my first child and parent arriving at 8am, before which I had walked my dog and set up my play room with age appropriate toys. Once the parent had left for work we would drive my children to school (my youngest attended a village school in the countryside so we looked out for tractors on the way.)

On return home, the second child arrives at 8.30 and soon after we set off to the children’s centre for a child minders drop in. Weather permitting we would walk, with walking children wearing reins and being encouraged to hold onto the buggy walking on the inside so they were away from the road ( see earlier piece on road safety) I teach the children about the importance of using pelican and zebra crossings to cross the road. If the weather is wet or cold, we would go in the car, ensuring all children are seated safely in age appropriate seats or booster cushions.

On arrival to the drop in, the children play and socialise with other minded children, while learning to share and turn take. The adults get a chance to give each other support and share vacancies. After being encouraged to help tidy away the toys, the children sit around a table and have a fruit snack, biscuit and drink, while adults get a warm tea or coffee. When sack is consumed we leave to collect my third child from his school nursery.

We then head back to my house for lunch, mostly the children bring a packed lunch from home. After lunch, any child requiring a nap does so and the other children do a quiet activity, like painting or play dough.

When everyone is awake and I have changed nappies, we either go into the garden or head for the park, where we feed the ducks, before playing on the equipment. We collect my children from school at 3.00 and then we have a story or singing time, before the minded chlidren go home, between 4 and 5. I then feed my own children and finally write up any notes needed for Ofsted and to help my planning for future activities.

As this shows, we had little time for television. I’m not saying we never watched it, as if monitored, I believe some programmes can be educational.

Other days I would take the children to toddler groups, family work shops and visits to the library, for story time or singing groups. During the school holidays I had more children, so we had even more fun.

If you are thinking of hiring a child minder, see my earlier post on looking for child care,

As always comments/ questions are welcome.

Karen x

If anyone wants to contact me directly, do so by clicking here